So it’s time to meet another member of the FSB design team. That would be George Dunlap, Senior Project Designer. He’s a talented architect and really good designer; you can reaffirm that yourself by revisiting to the Post “Preliminary Design-putting a wrapper on round one.” He tends to be on the reserved, quiet side that is until you talk to him about his passion “Design.”
George: Oh Sure.
Thinking back, what were your thoughts when you first learned about the project and that you would be designing it?
George: Wow, that’s been nearly a year ago (pausing) but I was excited. It’s a great opportunity to do a project with the Chickasaw Nation and do it from beginning to end.
What was challenging about the project? It’s a small project and you’d think not very difficult.
George: Sometimes the small ones can be more challenging. Looking at the program it seemed simple, but resolving it… (pause) how do you fit this building program on such a compact site and on top of that sloping over 10 feet and then working in the parking. Integrating the building systems. We wanted them to be tucked away, no roof top units. You really had to look at it 3 dimensionally, it has to look good from all sides. The hotel (across the street) can see down on the project.
Having worked with the Nation on other projects including programming and design, how would you characterize the client?
George: They are a good group to work with. I would say you want to please this client; they have high expectations. You want to come through and give them your best effort. I believe we gave them a really good design and concept. It’s a marquee, landmark project. They only come by every so often. This is a special jewel. It can potentially win some design awards. I’d like to see that.
What was your approach to the design process?
George: I think doing some research on the Nation, having worked on some previous efforts and being familiar with the Nation, the people involved making the decisions. Knowing what they like.
So you think you have the client figured out?
George: (grinning) To a degree… yea. Again having that background and relationship then taking cues from the cultural center, their tribal buildings, the historic structures in the national park and absorbing all that. Then developing a vision through our discussions and things with the Governor and other players in the project set the ground for the development of our concepts. Bringing back the mission statement and goals we established with them and working them in.
What was it you were wanting to create for the Nation, what is the building trying to say?
George: Something that… well, a building that expressed the culture, it’s progressive, it’s a building that makes a statement, expresses the materials in the design, reflects the culture and history of the tribe. How the Nation has grown as an entity and organization.
What about LEED, Sustainability?
George: (big grin) That was exciting to hear when the Nation wanted to pursue LEED certification. I believe we are on track for Gold. Reaching and achieving that level is really something. There was a challenge in just that, how do we get all the points to get to that level, integrating all the sustainable systems.
You’re on the front end of the project leading the design charge, but these projects are always a multi-disciplined approach. How do you see yourself as the designer working with other players and working towards systems integration in the team effort?
George: I think as the designer, initially I was just trying to nail things down, thinking through the design as a whole, and when I say that, I’m thinking about how to include all the other systems, the structure, what type of structure, the mechanical and where are we going to put all that? Where are we going to locate the systems within the architecture? The large open volume space of the Gallery really took that to the limit; concealing and running the ductwork, the fire sprinkler systems and everything else. You’ve got to work with everybody to figure these things out.
What was your career path that has brought you to this point, this project?
George: Well let me back up to high school when I was taking drafting classes as an elective. Non computer stuff right? Right, “spreading the lead” so to speak, using electric erasers and drafting anywhere from machine parts to some architecture floor plans. I always had an interest in drawing, sketching going back to grade school. Won some art contests. I went to OSU, wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in. I looked at the degree list and architecture was close to the top of the list as I’m scanning down. “Architecture! I think I could do that,” so right there I made a decision to pursue architecture. Ended up not staying at OSU.
Actually I ended up changing majors and taking business at OU for a year and a half. And thought, “well I’ve got a few friends with business degrees that aren’t doing a whole lot,” so I thought I may jump back to the architecture thing. Actually went to work for a friend of my uncles’ who had a firm in Edmond for a summer. And I thought “I think I could do this and enjoy it.” Had the knack for design and sketching. So went back to OU and changed majors back to architecture and enjoyed the experience; did some of those grueling all nighters in the design studio but really enjoyed design and got through all the other course work and finished up school with a Bachelor of Architecture. Then worked at 3 firms before coming here at FSB. I’ve been here 7 years and this is by far my best stop. I have worked on some great projects. Several jewels since I’ve been here.
Well we’re moving forward now. What are you excited about next?
George: (being very reflective) It’s always exciting to see what you have worked with on paper and on the computer come to fruition, turn into a structure, a 3D building with real form where people are using the facility. That’s always an exciting time, to see the project under construction, coming out of the ground, and then completion. To see that finished project right there before you and experience the space in real time is, well, special. We get to use our tools here in the office, computers, animations, renderings and we can nearly walk through the virtual building, but it’s nothing like the real experience of the space itself.
I’m looking forward to walking thru the finished building myself.
So are you familiar with the Blog?
George: Oh Yeah. I’ve followed the blog every Tuesday and read the entire thing. What’s great about that Fred is that I don’t know that the layperson knows what architects do. So the Blog walks you through the process and tells them what we do. I have people come up to me and ask “so what do you do, draw blueprints?” The construction drawings are not the end result. We design buildings, take them from beginning to end.
It’s been fun sharing that on the blog; it seems to be getting traction. Great design George, great project.